Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the special occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, on which we recall the importance of the Word of God in our lives, the central role of the Sacred Scriptures in our life as Christians, which cannot be separated from our daily life. The Word of God is central as part of our Christian way of life and we have to put it as the centre and focus of our whole existence. That is the great importance and significance of the Word for us.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted this Sunday of the Word of God just recently a few years ago to remind us of this importance, so that as Christians we do not end up sidelining the centrality of the Scriptures. We cannot be true Christians unless we have appreciated and understood the Scriptures, spent the time to read them and to put them into our hearts and minds. Each and every Christian families, all of us must put our effort to read and study the Scriptures together. We must always strive to help one another to understand the Scripture better.

However, too many of us sidelined the Scriptures, not spending the time to even read the Bible at all. Many of us always find excuses trying to justify why we couldn’t do so. We were either too busy with our work and career, or with whatever it was that fancied our thoughts and minds, not being able to focus ourselves on the Lord and His words. And we also find excuses saying that reading the Bible is boring and not interesting at all, because we prefer to read other things that excite us more.

That is what happened when we do not have the genuine faith and desire to love God. We put other things instead of God as the focus of our lives then easily we will end up forgetting about Him and His truth, and His words have no place inside of us. It is time for us to reflect on this before it is too late for us and since each and every one of us are called today this Sunday to reflect on the importance of this Word of God, we should make the effort to read the Scriptures more, spending the time to deepen our understanding of God’s words and truth, and also how He has done so much throughout our history of salvation.

Let us now also look through our Scripture readings today, as we first recall the words of the prophet Ezra to the people of Israel in the Book of Nehemiah. At that time, the people of Israel had just returned from their exile in the land of the Babylonians, as they were allowed to return to their homeland by King Cyrus the Great of the Persians. The Lord had touched the king’s heart to allow His people to return to their homeland. Therefore, they took the journey to return to their homeland, and they went back to the ruins of Jerusalem and their cities to begin rebuilding their homeland in earnest.

The priest and prophet Ezra led the people in the reading of the Law of God, the Law, commandments and the rules which God had laid down to His people through Moses. Those Law and commandments had long been neglected, and through the years of the kingdom of Israel and Judah they had often been ignored and disregarded. The Lord’s people had abandoned Him and persecuted His prophets and messengers, and as a result, they had to suffer the consequences of their infidelity, to be humiliated among the nations.

But God still had mercy and compassion and them, and He still loved them no matter what. That was why He sent Ezra to the people, and assisted by Nehemiah, the servant and scribe of the Persian King, to remind the people to know the Law and the commandments. For all those time when their ancestors had neglected the Law, it was even possible that they did not bother to get to know the Law and the truth of God more. They did not make the effort to know the Lord more even though the Law and the words of the Lord had always been available to them. To all of us, we have also received these same Law and commandments in the Scriptures. The same Law that Ezra spoke of that day, is the same one that is contained in our Sacred Scriptures.

Today, all of us also heard in our Gospel passage today, the words of the Lord Jesus as He proclaimed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of His own hometown. The people there were astonished when they heard how He spoke with such great Wisdom and authority, as He revealed the truth of God to all, how everything that the prophets had spoken would be fulfilled through Him. He was the One Whom the prophets had revealed, and all these were written in the Scriptures. But, the people often refused to believe in Him as they could not accept how He could be the Messiah of God.

And ironically it was the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were often up against Him and His works, doubting Him and trying hard to undermine His credibility at every possible opportunities. Those were the ones who supposedly should have known the best about the Scriptures and the Law, and they should have been the first to recognise the Saviour of God when He came into this world. Yet, they were the ones who rejected Him and made His works difficult as they refused to believe that He was truly the One promised by God.

That was despite the fact that they had seen all that the Lord had performed before them, in healing the sick people and opening the eyes of the blind, releasing the tongues of the mute and opening the ears of the deaf, and in casting out demons among many other miracles He had performed, all of which were the words of the Scriptures, the prophets and messengers of God all coming to perfect fulfilment in Him. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they were too proud to admit that there could be One Who could be superior to them.

They might have known the letter of the Law and the contents of the Word of God, but they did not truly appreciate and understand its meaning and significance, and as a result that was why they ended up doing all sorts of things that were unbecoming of them as the guardians of the faith of the people. This is in fact a reminder for us that we ourselves can also fall to the same pitfall unless we are careful not to lose our vigilance and guard against our pride and ego, and all the worldly temptations and desires.

Then lastly in our second reading today, we heard how St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle and letter to the Church and the faithful in Corinth that the Church of God is truly the one united and indivisible Body of Christ formed from the unity of all the faithful people of God. That Church was founded by the Lord Himself, established in this world with Himself as its Foundation and Focus. The Church of God was founded upon this very Word of God made Flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate. The Church is founded on the base of the Sacred Scriptures, the Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Therefore, as we also celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week, we have to spend some time to reflect on what we can do to foster unity within the Church. But we cannot do this if we ourselves are weak and ignorant of the truth of God as contained within His Word in the Sacred Scriptures. We have to deepen our relationship with God first and our understanding of His words and His truth as contained within the Scriptures, if we are to seek true unity in the Church among all Christians everywhere. We are all called and challenged to seek the Word of God in every available opportunity and share it with others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make good use of this opportunity on the Sunday of the Word of God to renew our commitment to place the Word at the centre of our Christian lives and amidst our respective families. We are all called to be the bearers of the Word of God and be His witnesses in our respective communities and in the various places we are living in. Are we able to live virtuously and in obedience of the Lord’s commandments and Law as He has entrusted them to us?

These are the things that we have to consider as we reflect and discern on our path forward in life. Are we going to continue down the same path towards ruin as what those Israelites and the ones who had ignored the Word of God and His truth had done? Or shall we instead do our very best to live our lives in accordance with the Word of truth, and strive to be exemplary each day and every moments in life to be most committed in all things? Let us all strive towards true Christian Unity by solidifying our foundation of faith through the frequent study and appreciation of the Scriptures, the Word of God.

Let us all make good use of these opportunities that God has given to us, to be His most dedicated followers and disciples, now and always, that more and more may come to believe in God and His salvation. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 1 : 1-4 and Luke 4 : 14-21

Several people have set themselves to relate the events that have taken place among us, as they were told by the first witnesses, who later became ministers of the word. After I, myself, had carefully gone over the whole story from the beginning, it seemed right for me to give you, Theophilus, an orderly account, so that your Excellency may know the truth of all you have been taught.

At that time, Jesus acted with the power of the Spirit; and on His return to Galilee, the news about Him spread throughout all that territory. He began teaching in the synagogue of the Jews and everyone praised Him.

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-30

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit, to form one Body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The Body has not just one member, but many.

If the foot should say, “I do not belong to the body for I am not a hand,” it would be wrong : it is part of the body! Even though the ear says, “I do not belong to the body for I am not an eye,” it is part of the body. If all the body were eye, how would we hear? And if all the body were ear, how would we smell?

God has arranged all the members, placing each part of the body as He pleased. If all were the same part where would the body be? But there are many members and one body. The eye cannot tell the hand, “I do not need you,” nor the head tell the feet, “I do not need you.”

Still more, the parts of our body that we most need are those that seem to be the weakest; the parts that we consider lower are treated with much care, and we cover them with more modesty because they are less presentable, whereas the others do not need such attention. God, Himself, arranged the body in this way, giving more honour to those parts that need it, so that the body may not be divided, but, rather, each member may care for the others. When one suffers, all of them suffer, and when one receives honour, all rejoice together.

Now, you are the Body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it. So God has appointed us in the Church. First Apostles, second prophets, third teachers. Then come miracles, then the gift of healing, material help, administration in the Church and the gift of tongues.

Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Can all perform miracles, or cure the sick, or speak in tongues, or explain what was said in tongues?

Alternative reading (shorter version)

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-14, 27

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit, to form one Body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The Body has not just one member, but many.

Now, you are the Body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it.

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgements of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o Lord – my Redeemer, my Rock!

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Nehemiah 8 : 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men, women and all the children who could understand what was being read. It was the first day of the seventh month.

So he read it before the plaza in front of the Water Gate from dawn till noon, before the men, women and those children who could understand. All the people were eager to hear the book of the law. Ezra, the teacher of the law, stood on a wooden platform built for that occasion.

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was in a higher place; and when he opened it, all the people stood. Ezra praised YHVH the great God; and all the people lifted up their hands and answered, “Amen! Amen!” And they bowed their heads to the ground.

They read from the book of the law of God, clarifying and interpreting the meaning, so that everyone might understand what they were hearing. Then Ezra, the teacher of the law, said to the people, “This day is dedicated to YHVH, your God, so do not be sad or weep.”

He said this because all wept when they heard the reading of the law. Then he said to them, “Go and eat rich foods, drink sweet wine and share with him who has nothing prepared. This day is dedicated to the Lord, so do not be sad. The joy of YHVH is our strength.”

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday which is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we also mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, and this year we celebrate the second time this occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, after our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted it in his Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis on 30 September 2019.

This institution of the Sunday of the Word of God is an important reminder for all of us that the Sacred Scriptures, in which is contained the very Word of God, and which is the Word of God itself, is very important and central in our Christian faith and living. We cannot be true Christians unless we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God into our hearts and live our lives according to it.

Why is it important then that we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because if we do not know what the Word of God is, then how can we say that we know about our Christian faith? Our faith is more than just attending the Mass and doing our various devotions. Unless we deepen our understanding of the Word of God, then it will be difficult for us to remain faithful to God.

What do I mean by this? It means that without the Word of God in our lives, then our faith will be just like a house built on weak foundation, just as the Lord’s parable on the two houses, one built on sand and the other built on a firm rock foundation had illustrated this. If we do not know of this parable, or any other parables, or any other words of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets and the Apostles, then it shows just how lacking our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures are.

Many people have criticised and spoken about us as Catholics that have not enough or appreciable knowledge about the Scriptures. Regardless of the context and intention, the sad reality is that this is the truth for quite a few of us. However, this problem in fact also extends to all Christians, regardless of denomination, for knowing the Scriptures also often does not equate to understanding the Word of God.

Take for example the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These people were very knowledgeable about the Torah and could probably have memorised the entire verses of the Old Testament, the sayings of the prophets, and even learnt it all by heart. However, they did not understand fully the meaning of those words and the intention of those Word of God, and ended up making their own interpretations and following the flawed understanding of the Law, which made them to oppose much of the good works of God.

Therefore, in a similar way, unless we really make the effort to understand and internalise the Word of God into our lives, and learn of the true meaning, intention and purpose of God’s words, then it will be difficult for us to live a truly Christian way of life. And we cannot do this unless we make the effort to bring the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures into our lives, by spending time to read and reflect on them.

We must appreciate the fact that the Word of God is now so easily and readily available to us because in the past, there was no such thing as a printed Bible available for every single Christians and for the multitudes of the people. The Bible is easily one of the most if not the most printed literary work out there, and it is all the more special because the Bible is itself, the Word of God contained through the revelations of the prophets, the authors and the Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit.

However, we also have to keep in mind that while first of all of course we must make the effort to read the Scriptures and spend time to know more about the contents of the Bible, the Word of God, we must also understand it properly and meaningfully. Otherwise, we will end up like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who misinterpreted the Word of God and the Law, and like the many people who had fallen into various heresies in the history of the Church.

It is very easy for us to misunderstand the true purpose and meaning of God’s words, just as Satan himself showed us during his temptation of the Lord Jesus, when he tried to use the verses of the Scripture and twisting its meaning and intention in order to try to persuade the Lord to fall into temptation and stop His works in saving us all mankind. But the Lord immediately rebuked the devil with other words of the Scriptures and defeated him, while revealing the wickedness of the devil’s intentions.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded of the gravity of our responsibility as Christians, first of all to familiarise ourselves with the Word of God, and there is no better way to do that than to read the Scriptures and spend quality time in reading through the words written about the works of the Lord among His people, and the truth that He has revealed to us through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

However, we cannot just read the Scriptures separately on their own, or else, we may end up misinterpreting, misunderstanding and even worse still misusing the words of the Scriptures for the wrong purposes and intentions. Throughout history, that was how many different heretical sects had caused so much division within the Church and caused bitter struggle between the members of the faithful people of God.

That is why, all of us need to adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, the Magisterium of the Church, through which the Lord has preserved the truth that was contained within our Christian faith, as passed on to us through the Apostles and their successors. That was how the Church has persisted and persevered in maintaining the truth of God despite all the divisions and heresies that had happened throughout the past two millennia.

We must remember that the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Magisterium of the Church are the two important pillars of our faith, and they cannot be separated from each other. The Sacred Scriptures themselves came about by the authority of the Church and the Magisterium, who deliberated and decided on the list of the books and portions considered as ‘Canonical’, while rejecting many others of dubious origins and quality, or incoherent in its message.

At the same time, the Church and its Magisterium must remain true and faithful to the truth contained within the Word of God, the revelation of truth by Christ Himself, the Logos, the Divine Word Incarnate. Thus, both the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church together become the pillar and foundation of support for our genuine and authentic Christian faith and expression.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture readings we can clearly see how each and every one of us as Christians are called to follow the Lord and to be His true disciples and faithful witnesses in our respective communities, much as the prophet Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh, calling on all to repent and turn back towards God.

All of us are the parts of the Church and therefore, we share in its mission to bring forth the truth and the Word of God to all the peoples of all the nations, following in the footsteps of the Apostles that the Lord had called and chosen. By our baptism, we too have been called and chosen to the same purpose and ministry. If we think then that we are unworthy or incapable of such deeds, then we need to realise that it is God Who makes us worthy, and as long as we trust in Him and put our faith in Him, then we have nothing to worry about.

And we do not need to do great and mighty things, as even the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions are what it takes for us to contribute to the cause of the Lord and His Church. Each and every one of us should therefore deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Word of God in the Scriptures, and make the effort to know more about the teachings of the Church, so that we will uphold the two pillars of our faith.

Through all these, we shall be true disciples and followers of the Lord, and by our actions and examples, we can inspire one another and so many other people, and through us, the Lord shall call many more to follow Him. Let us all therefore be the bearers and witnesses of God’s truth and be filled with the Word of God in all of our lives, in each and every one of our actions, now and always.

May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who has revealed to us His truth and love, continue to guide us and be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, in proclaiming His Word through our lives and actions. May God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 14-20

At that time, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.”

As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.”

At once, they abandoned their nets and followed Him. Jesus went a little farther on, and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed Him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 7 : 29-31

I say this, brothers and sisters : time is running out, and those who are married must live as if not married; those who weep as if not weeping; those who are happy as if they were not happy; those buying something as if they had not bought it, and those enjoying the present life as if they were not enjoying it. For the order of this world is vanishing.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o YHVH; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o YHVH, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, YHVH teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jonah 3 : 1-5, 10

The word of YHVH came to Jonah a second time : “Go to Nineveh, the great city, and announce to them the message I give you.”

In obedience to the word of YHVH, Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a very large city, and it took three days just to cross it. So Jonah walked a single day’s journey and began proclaiming, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.”

The people of the city believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened upon them.